On Friday, our Community Outreach Director, Claire Roberson, took Buckley, a handsome beagle mix to our weekly "Take Me Home" morning news segment on WRDW.
Buckley wasn't camera shy at all, he was much too busy engaging his hound nose and sniffing the carpet, the chairs, news anchor & reporter Meredith Anderson's hot pink shoes and meteorologist Tim Strong's formerly fur-free pants.
Having a sense of smell that is tens of thousands of times more sensitive than our own, all dogs rely on their noses to give them information about the environment and they usually use their noses much more than their other senses to lead any new interaction.
Being a beagle mix, a breed not only popular with hunters, but also with government and security agencies in detecting contraband and illegal substances, Buckley's sense of smell is even more sensitive. You could say his nose, definitely knows.
This is why in addition to basic care, feeding and simple training, walking your dog is one of the most loving things you can do for him. Aside from providing your dog with daily physical exercise and an opportunity to relieve himself, walking with your dog while allowing him to use his amazing olfactory ability is not only great enrichment, but also an integral component to building a strong human-canine relationship.
And it is ultimately the strength of your relationship with your dog that accounts for his ability to “listen to you” when you need him to.
Use your walking time to interact with your pup, explore different routes and new situations. Climb together on a rock, go over a bench, check out some trees. Give him time to use his nose along the way to really take in the adventure. Incorporate some simple obedience commands along the way. Play with your dog. Throw a ball or a stick. Make yourself part of his experience.
So exactly how often and for how long should we walk our dogs? The SPCA's Director of Training and Enrichment, Ann Kinney says there are endless discussions and opinions on this subject, but if the average dog owner would commit to at least two 30-minute “sniffy” walks per day, our dogs would be much happier, calmer, and less likely to become destructive due to a lack of mental exercise. The goal for the walk should be to engage your dog mentally, establish his active participation, and work on building a relationship with him.
By accomplishing different tasks together your dog is getting to know you as his valued companion and an integral part of his social group. There really isn’t a more effective way to build trust and a meaningful bond between two different species than working together toward a shared goal, and in your dog’s mind that’s exactly what is happening as you explore the environment together.
So next time you take your dog out for a walk, put on a pair of doggie glasses, imagine yourself with an incredibly sensitive doggie nose and try to see the world from his perspective. Get off the pavement and find a trail through the woods or at least a dirt path. And if he wants to stop and investigate something for more than a few seconds, let him do it. Drop the agenda, stow away your phone and be a part of the adventure. Your dog will thank you for it!
Sarah Neikam is the Marketing Director for the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare. She is an Aiken native and has been with the SPCA since 2012. Sarah lives in Graniteville with her family which includes three adopted cats: Bastian, Luna and Grady, who are all living happy, loved lives thanks to the efforts of the SPCA.